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Notes by Luster May Offer Clues

U.S. officials are trying to obtain a journal that the fugitive rapist reportedly left in Mexico. It could contain names of accomplices.

June 24, 2003|Tracy Wilson, Jenifer Ragland and Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writers

U.S. authorities are working to obtain a 13-page spiral notebook reportedly found in the Puerto Vallarta hotel room of convicted rapist Andrew Luster, saying it could contain key evidence for an ongoing investigation into who may have aided in his escape.

The handwritten journal contained names of people from whom Luster expected to be sent money, Spanish translations for pickup lines and a so-called payback list that included three victims and the attorneys who prosecuted him, according to published accounts in the Ventura County Star newspaper.

"We're aware of reports about the notebook and are interested in obtaining it, given that it could shed light on his activity down there," said FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosely.

Bosely said she could not confirm the existence of the notebook.

Federal officials are working with Mexican authorities to obtain the journal and any other evidence that may help with their investigation, because the FBI has no jurisdiction to seize evidence in Mexico, Bosely said.

Investigators are trying to determine whether anyone helped Luster plan and finance his escape during his Ventura County trial in January on charges of drugging and raping three women.

Last week, bounty hunters dragged Luster, 39, the great-grandson of cosmetics legend Max Factor, away from a taco stand in Puerto Vallarta, five months after he jumped bail and fled.

Luster was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 124 years in state prison. He began serving his term Thursday after being returned to California.

On Saturday, a Star reporter fished a notebook from a trash can at Luster's motel in Puerto Vallarta, motel manager Oscar Lopez told the Associated Press. Motel staff later threw out the notebook, Lopez said.

The notebook listed four people -- Mike, M.Dean, L.L. and Alex -- who Luster reportedly had business dealings with or hoped would send him money, the news report said.

"Whether I know Spanish to your liking or if I'm living at the office or whatever has absolutely nothing to do with you following through with the delivery of my 80k," said one entry, according to the newspaper.

The diary also included a list with the names of three Ventura County sheriff's detectives, a district attorney's office investigator, prosecutors on the case and three rape victims.

All the names were under the heading "PAYBACK," which was underlined, the report said.

According to news accounts, Luster maintained his innocence in the diary entries and blamed Ventura County authorities for ruining his life.

"They were trying to do him in for having sex with two of his past girlfriends, lock him up forever for being with two girls he had slept with over 100 times each," he reportedly wrote. "Yes they were in an extreme state of inebriation.... But this -- as any actively sexual person (player) knows is not outside the grounds of ethical play."

Ventura County law enforcement officials said Monday that they were not concerned about Luster's "payback" list.

"It is always a little disconcerting to find evidence like that," said Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Patricia Murphy. But given the fact that Luster is in the custody of the state Department of Corrections, there is no real fear of retaliation, she said.

Ventura County Sheriff's Department spokesman Eric Nishimoto echoed those sentiments.

"Right now there is no reason to believe there is anything more to it other than the typical criminal being angry at those who put him behind bars," he said.

Of greater concern are the pickup lines Luster reportedly jotted down in the notebook as well as the discovery of video equipment in his motel room, authorities said.

Luster was charged with rape by use of drugs after authorities found videotapes in his Mussel Shoals home that showed him sexually assaulting two comatose women.

"It is troubling, and it leads us to believe he was at least heading on out on the same path of conduct," Murphy said.

Mexican authorities said they have not received any reports of crimes involving Luster during his time in that country and do not plan to start an inquiry.

"There's no crime to investigate," Marco Roberto Juarez said Monday from the Jalisco state attorney general's office in Puerto Vallarta.

In other developments, a court hearing on pending criminal charges against Luster's bounty hunters was postponed until Thursday.

Duane Lee "Dog" Chapman, his son, his brother and two freelance TV producers are charged with illegal deprivation of liberty and criminal association in connection with the June 18 capture. A judge was scheduled to decide Monday whether to proceed with a trial or drop the charges, Chapman's attorney, Jorge Garza, said in a telephone interview from Puerto Vallarta.

He said attorneys for the men asked for the delay to have more time to prepare their cases.

The bounty hunters are staying in a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, where they are being guarded to make sure they don't leave the country, the attorneys said.

*

Times staff writer Olga R. Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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